Category Archives: The Authorship of Hebrews

Introducing Old Testament Quotations and the Authorship of Hebrews

(From Dave Black Online, Monday, March 5, 2018. Used by permission.)

5:18 PM So here’s another blog post that is guaranteed to bore you to death or at least put you to sleep. (So what’s new, eh?) This afternoon I was sitting in my home library reading Ephesians 4 when I “just happened” (= divine providence no doubt) to come upon a literary device that Paul uses in verse 8. Friend, if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know this is how my mind works. I try to fill in the blanks, sometimes even where no blanks exist. Anyhow, this is what I was reading:

In verse 8 you can see that Paul introduces an OT quote with the words “he says,” meaning “God says.” We’re going to look closely at this for just a few minutes. You see, one of the main arguments against the Pauline authorship of Hebrews is said to be the way the author of Hebrews introduces his OT quotations. Here’s a screen shot of an article I found online:

Certainly this distorts things a bit, don’t you think? It’s an overgeneralization, and an inexact one at that. How do I know? Because I once took the time to compare Hebrews with the 13 authentic Paulines and even wrote a little book on the subject called The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul. So I grabbed my book off the shelf and, lo and behold, I was reminded that I had actually discussed this matter, to wit:

So then I grabbed my favorite commentary on Ephesians (written by my former Basel prof Markus Barth) and discovered that he, too, agreed that the words “he says” are Pauline. Here are his exact words (pp. 430-431):

Therefore he says. The quotation formula “he says” is found in several Pauline or other NT writings, and introduces a citation from the Bible of Isreal.

Oh my. Barth goes on to cite Paul’s use of the same (or a very similar) introductory formula in Eph. 5:14, Gal. 3:16, 1 Cor. 6:16, 2 Cor. 6:2, and Rom. 15:10. In other words, he cites the same examples I cite in my book, and even added one I didn’t include (Rom. 15:10). The point Barth’s trying to make is that, by using this method of quoting the OT, Paul is making it clear to his audience that he’s not quoting “a hymn or perhaps a Targum, rather than a Scripture text” (p. 431).

Again, the evidence seems plain: Paul does indeed use “he says” to introduce quotes from the OT. The facts are obvious. Consequently the argument that Paul introduced OT quotes in one way and the author of Hebrews did so in a completely different way is an argument that fails the smell test. So evidently, we have to throw out that argument. And I haven’t even discussed the other internal arguments against the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, because honestly?

Listen, this is a one finger pointed at you and three fingers pointing back at me scenario. I haven’t always been right. If fact, I’ve been wrong about a good many things in my 42-year teaching career. This is why the body of Christ is so essential. To keep us thinking. And honest with the data. And true to our (better) selves. I am determined to address my failings, my faux pas (that can be a plural in French too, right?), my eisegesis. And yes, I realize this is a third-tier issue. God gave us a spectacular writing called Hebrews, and we all value it, whatever our position on authorship is.

But if Paul were the author ….

Internal vs. External Evidence in Biblical Studies – an Example

8:06 AM From The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul:

Today, I’m intrigued to note how often exegetical arguments are based upon subjective internal evidence. Arguably, this is not the best way to approach exegetical conundrums when there is an abundance of external evidence to be considered. I would prefer that our students be exposed to all of the evidence, even data that are contrary to the consensus opinio. I fear that much of the trouble goes back to the way we do theological training. Thus one will rarely (if ever) hear that “there is strong (although not probative) internal evidence and solid external evidence for the Paulinity of the epistle [to the Hebrews].” Now, I can see some force in arguments to the contrary, but to ignore the primary data is beyond comprehension.

Introducing Scripture Quotes in Hebrews

[12/26/2016] 1:05 PM Man … I still can’t believe I just read this today. A commentator repeats an age-old argument against the Pauline authorship of Hebrews by noting how Paul quotes the Old Testament: “Scripture says” or “It is written.” Then he goes on to state, “The letter [of Hebrews] never uses these expressions but usually puts a simple “It says,” without giving the subject (cf. Heb 1:6, 7; 5:6; 8:8, 13; 10:5; 12:26).”

Hmm. I wrote a big ol’ book (38 pages) about this subject and guess what? The “It says/He says” method of introducing Old Testament quotations in Hebrews is paralleled in — are you ready? — 1 Cor 6:16; 15:27; 2 Cor 6:2; Gal 3:16; Eph 4:8 and 5:14. You can find all of this on p. 5 of my book The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul. Look up these verses for yourself if you like. On the same page of my book, in footnote 12, you will also find this quote from volume 4 of Nigel Turner’s A Grammar of New Testament Greek: “This impersonal use of ‘he says’ is quite rabbinical and also Pauline ….”

My only suggestion is that you, as a reader, need to examine carefully everything you read, regardless of who the author is. The includes, of course, anything I write. Follow the evidence wherever it leads. And as for us authors, let’s try our best to set aside bogus appeals to data meant to shut down debate. I promise to work harder at this myself.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is the author of The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul.)

Active Participants Wanted

5:42 PM Since I have just published another book (The Authorship of Hebrews), I thought I would share with you few thoughts on the writing and reading of books:

1) The books I write are getting shorter and shorter. “Less is more” is becoming more of a reality and less of an old truism for me. You don’t need to know everything about a subject to understand it. In fact, innumerable facts are often a detriment to understanding. Above all, I try to avoid writing in such a way that might imply that thinking on the part of the reader is unnecessary.

2) I want my readers to become active participants in my book’s ideas. Some will read for information. “What does Dave think about this or that?” Others will read more for their own personal understanding of the subject, with the hope that something they read will shine some light on the facts they already know. Some of us are so guilty of abecedarian ignorance that we have to start with the simple ABCs. Our goal is simply information. Eventually, I hope we can read books preeminently for the sake of understanding.

3) Whenever I read a new book I always read it through from beginning to end in one sitting and without pondering the things I don’t understand. I find I have a much better chance of understanding a book on second reading after I’ve already gained a bird’s-eye-view of its contents.

4) As for speed of reading, my golden rule is a simple one. I read a book no more quickly than I can read it with satisfaction and comprehension. I can generally skim a book on my first reading. This gives me some idea of its form and structure. I am thus prepared to read it well the second time around. I can always tell whether a book is a “good” book. A good book is one that is always over my head in some sense. It forces me to think, to stretch, and to pull myself up to its level.

5) As for marking in books, I do so religiously. My pen is my best friend in reading a new book. Whether underlining major points or placing an asterisk in the margin or circling key words and phrases, I try to read consciously and interactively.

6) My new book, like most works of non-fiction, is chronotopical. It deals with things as they exist or occur in a particular time and place (hence the term “chronotopical,” from the Greek words for time and place). My book is the product of my own personal history. It traces how my thinking has evolved since I first began teaching in 1976. I have tried to write in a way that exhibits unity, clarity, and coherence. Whenever possible I have told the reader what the questions are and the answers that are the fruits of my own study. But the reader must not expect me to do the job all by myself. He or she must meet me halfway. My goal is a “meeting of the minds,” a reciprocal benefit that depends on the willingness of both reader and writer to work together.

7) Finally, the heart of my new book lies in the major affirmations and denials I am making, and the reasons I give for so doing. You may or may not agree with all of my propositions, but I hope you will not miss their meaning. I think I’m simply verbalizing what we all know to be true, though I might perhaps state things in an unconventional way. “2 + 2 = 4” and “4 – 2 = 2” are different notations for the same arithmetic relationship — the relationship of 4 as double of 2, or 2 as half of 4. The same conclusion is forced upon us regardless of the proposition being made.

In the end, the best readers are the most critical. They make up their own minds on the matters the author has discussed. I invite you to read my latest book and engage me in these issues.

(For the Kindle version of the book, go here.)

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is the author of The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul.)

Reflection on Hypotheses

9:16 AM Say, got a minute for some reflection? Today I want to think out loud with you about “hypotheses.” As a proponent of the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, all I can do is offer a hypothesis that I believe is consistent with the facts. This does not, of course, prove my hypothesis. That is a different matter altogether. Just because something is possible or even plausible does not make it probable. How, then, do I deal with this issue? You’ll have to wait for the published book to see. All I can say here is that an author who defends a hypothesis must be prepared to be judged by the evidence. The estimation of probability is left completely to the reader. The one thing readers must not do, however, is prejudge the matter. Snap judgments are never acceptable. It is a correct critical judgment we are after.

This is true even when a scientific test is applied, say, to the Synoptic Problem. In this case, we know two things: 1) There is abundant documentary evidence from the earliest centuries that Matthew is our first canonical Gospel; and 2) a critical examination of it discloses a high probability of truth. It is therefore not sufficient merely to dismiss this evidence as naive. To put it differently, in trying to discredit this “second-hand” knowledge, the skeptic assumes that he or she knows better than, say, an Origen or a Eusebius. Such a conclusion causes the devil’s advocate to point out the utter subjectivity of that position. (See the discussion in my Why Four Gospels? The Historical Origins of the Gospels.) The trouble here is an unexpressed antihistorical bias that vitiates an objective consideration of the data. Who among us has never violated the elementary canon of historiography by neglecting contrary evidence?

In short, I submit that my work on Hebrews is a closely-argued hypothesis. But it remains a hypothesis. At no time should the reader take a vacation from healthy skepticism. The one thing I hope you will not do is prejudge the matter.

(From Dave Black Online, August 17, 2013. Used by permission.)